It's GTA in Africa, but good.
So I picked this up off Steam yesterday, let it download overnight.
First impression? Ugh. Second, third and subsequent impressions? Whee!
The game takes place in some fictional African state seemingly overrun with foreign mercenaries. There's two factions that don't like each-other much and a few minor players that you can cut deals with for medicine, weapons and help in a pinch. The basic gameplay revolves around getting a mission, driving to a location, shooting a tonne of guys in the head, blowing up some stuff and then returning for your reward. It's a solid formula and FC2 pulls it off pretty well.
The driving is polished and forgiving enough to be fun. There's a few different types of car, each handling slightly differently. Some have guns on the top for crazed Fishburnian machine-gunning, another is a home-built, low-to-the-ground dirt buggy. There's also fanboats around the place to traverse the waterways that crisscross the map. One thing that did niggle me, after recently having played through Crysis again, was the very simplistic damage models on the vehicles. They've got three states: Working, not working and exploded. There's no shooting tires or other damage, it's either a leaky radiator or complete incineration. It's slightly disappointing, but forgivable given it takes some of the pressure out of ambushes, not having to avoid hitting the tires.
The shooting is, in a word, weird. It's a strange amalgam of hardcore FPS and arcadey hop'n'pop. I'm playing sans crosshairs on the "hardcore" difficulty level, but shooting unzoomed tends to produce suspiciously good results. Holding the RMB brings up iron sights for precise aiming, but with the default ironsights it doesn't seem any better than shooting from the hip. I only begun to notice a difference when using an aimpoint or scope. The guns you acquire from fallen enemies jam with depressing frequency and you must reload and wait a few seconds to unjam them. This was an annoyance for me when first starting out, but becomes less of an issue later on once you start to buy your own guns. All the guns feel nice, with a solid punch to the sound and good first person animations. Hitting an enemy produces an impressive spurt of blood, making the act of shooting someone in the god-damned face a pleasurable one.
There's a kind of mild RPG element to how you acquire guns. Once you get to the gun shop and purchase something, that thing, be it a gun or a piece of equipment, will always be available at the nearby armoury. You'll never have to buy the same gun twice. Performing missions for the gun dealer unlocks different guns for purchase. These missions typically involve going to a location and blowing up a convoy of assuredly inferior firearms. However upon inspection of the trucks supposedly carrying these sub-standard shootans they appear to be either totally invisible or non-existent. In any case, the gun dealer thanks you for blowing up an empty truck by unlocking the next tier of weaponry for purchase. In addition to guns you can buy upgrades to accuracy and reliability for each weapon, along with bandoliers for extra ammo and storage crates at your safehouses.
These safehouses are scattered about the place. They're usually guarded by two or three baddies. Once they're dead you can then use this house to rest, resupply and rearm. There are various upgrades available for your safehouses. I've unlocked the vehicle upgrade which assures me that there'll be a vehicle to be found at every safehouse I visit. I suspect that further on there'll be unlocks to add medpacks and weapons, but I'll have to play further through.
One of the game's bullet points is fact that you must find medicine to survive. This is more or less true, every so often your view will go fuzzy around the edges and you'll need to pop an anti-malarial tablet to fix yourself up. This is, on the surface, a fairly insubstantial gimmick but it does remind you that your guy is naught but a human, not some ubersuit-equipped strongman. The medicine is obtained from the local church in exchange for blackmail material against the local men in power.
People always complain about how these "vidya games" are teaching our kids to become mass murderers. I'm more concerned about FC2 teaching our kids to be really bad automobile mechanics
. Whenever your vehicle becomes damaged by anything, gunfire, bushfire, flipping off a rock and rolling seven times, you repair it by tightening a nut on the engine with a ratchet. That's it. On some cars the magic nut is mysteriously the radiator cap, on other cars it's a spark plug. As far as a game mechanic goes it's fine; even if it gives the 'ole suspension-of-disbelief gland a serious workout.
Another of the purported game-changers in FC2 is fire. They say you can light a fire and watch it sweep through an enemy camp, doing your job for you in a spectacular blaze. This is actually pretty much the case. Fire looks incredible and can be very destructive if you use it properly. It doesn't quite live up to the claim of being the greatest innovation in gaming since the invention of the first person perspective but it's still mighty impressive. Once a fire has swept through a location the ground is blackened with burned grass, however some buildings seem to be mysteriously unaffected by having been on fire mere seconds before. A puzzler to be sure.
The currency of the game is diamonds. These're acquired by either doing missions or finding them randomly about the map. There's a green light on your gps-######-magic-diamond-finder that blinks whenever there's a diamond in the vicinity. Hop out of your car and hunt it down for an extra unit or two of currency. I haven't completed many missions thusfar, but the ones I have finished returned a reward to the tune of ten diamond-bucks, worth roughly one starter mid-range unlock.
Health in the game is handled by a partitioned health bar. Your health will regenerate up to one of these partitions after a few seconds of not being shot, but to be healed properly you'll need a syringe of magic healing fluid. If you're bumped down to below the bottom partition you'll need to perform a first aid action. This involves pressing "h" on your keyboard while your character does something amazingly badass to himself with a knife, a pair of pliers and a bundle of matches. This takes about five seconds and gives you two bars of health back. If you don't perform first aid, you bleed out and you're down.
There's a kind of buddy system in the game. It boils down to a kind of extra lives thing. If you get shot down in a firefight one of your buddies will appear and drag you out of it, giving you a few notches of health and some ammo to get back in and finish the fight, or run the hell away. Once your buddy has saved you it'll be a little while before your buddy can save you again. I'm not 100% sure of the timing of the mechanic, but it's basically a get-out-of-death free card that you can only play once every so often.
The graphics are, to be clear, utterly astounding. While it may not quite tick all the boxes that Crysis did, it still comes out on top in overall graphical quality. The rolling Savannah whispering under the breeze, sun rays peeking through the fronds of a gently waving tree, glowing cinders being blown ahead of the raging grassfire... it really is one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen. On occasion I've done a double take and thought "My, games have
come a long way, haven't they?" Initially I was annoyed by the hyperactive HDR, not unlike other games, but I soon grew accustomed to it. Immersion is given a boost when you step out of the hot African sun into the shade of a hut and have to wait a second for your eyes to adjust to the gloom.
Sound quality is somewhat poopy. I've got an Asus Xonar D2X with an external DTS 5.1 decoder. Crysis sounds like a pair of supermodels whispering sweet nothings in your ears. FC2 sounds like a mediocre stripper nasally complaining about the lack of tips. It's functional, but after Crysis' audio ecstasy it doesn't quite cut the mustard. If you're inside a building all sound outside the building have a strange muffled filter applied to them. This is fine if you're deep inside the house, but if you're just inside the threshold looking at a guy hiding behind a barrel a metre away and it sounds like he's yelling through a pillow, immersion is shattered. Character voices are too quiet to comfortably hear, making subtitles a necessity. For most of the characters the voice acting is passable. They speak words that can be parsed by those proficient in english. That's about it. The exception is the voice of the main antagonist, The Jackal. He's voiced exceptionally well.
The biggest beef I've got with the game is the enemies incredible perceptive abilities. They're able to see straight through grass, trees and sometimes corrugated iron. They'll be shooting you and you've no option but to blindly shoot in the direction of their muzzleflash or run away. It's a mild annoyance, but something that a clever modder will sort out in the near future, if Ubisoft doesn't fix it themselves. It's not a game-breaker, it just makes you play the game a bit more cautiously.
Another annoyance is the road checkpoints. At roughly half the intersections on the map there's a camp of three or four guys that take pot-shots at you as you drive along. Clearing them out gets you a little congratulatory message, but come back ten minutes later and they'll've all respawned again. A redeeming fact is that they'll always have a car there, so if you're without wheels you can always hump to the nearest intersection, kill a few guys and pick up a vehicle.
tl;dl: If you've got the hardware, and like the sound of GTA in the African plains, buy it.
P.S. My specs:
E8600 dual-core 3.33GHz
Asus Xonar D2X
P.P.S.S. Forgot to mention: Your assault rifles are all full-auto. No single shot or burst fire. Wtf, srsly.